(JAMAICA OBSERVER) — Prime Minister Andrew Holness has rejected claims that his Administration is moving to introduce same-sex marriage through the back door.
“We hear many talks in the society about how we define gender and sexuality in our country,” said Holness at a Father’s Day picnic at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Andrew yesterday.
“This Government that I lead is committed to preserving the institution of the family as we have understood it, and as our parents have understood it,” declared Holness in an obvious response to Opposition Senator Lambert Brown who, speaking in the Senate last Friday, charged that the Government is attempting to covertly introduce the legislation that could provide protection for same-sex marriages in Jamaica.
Pointing to a clause in the Trust Bill, Brown challenged its definition of personal relationship and argued that it was unconstitutional as the constitution only recognises marriages between one man and one woman.
“I have a big, big concern about this personal relationship and what we are about to let in. I can’t support this definition in this Bill. I am asking the Government to reconsider this definition in the light of the constitution,” he said.
While not referencing Brown’s comments directly, Holness vowed that he would not be distracted from his goal of reducing poverty, building the economy, and ultimately providing more jobs for the people of Jamaica.
According to Holness, while there has been much talk about abortion, obeah, and definitions of sexuality by people in the country, he will not be distracted.
“I have been listening keenly to the national debate, and there is much being said about the right to life. We hear much talk about issues such as abortion,” said Holness.
“On Saturday, I had the opportunity to receive the president of Ghana, and we had an interesting discussion about African retentions. One of our African retentions, of course, is the obeah man, and I have been following all the discussions, and if you put them together it would very well seem that there is an assault on the traditional values of the society and how we see our traditional institutions,” added Holness.
He continued: “This Government is solely focused on the real threats on the institutions of our society, which is poverty and lack of economic growth for the mass of the people”.
The prime minister further declared that his Administration will not be distracted by issues that will not add to the economic progress, the creation of jobs or economic growth.
Holness also noted that the Government exists in a democratic society, where people cannot be prevented from expressing their views.
“A part of the beauty of the system that we live in is that all views can contend. However, the Government must set priorities, and our priority is to address the issue of poverty in our country, to eliminate poverty from our land, to create economic growth, and provide jobs. So, if we engage in anything it must be about your economic independence,” said Holness.
According to Holness, the social issues are important and will be debated, as the Government should always pay attention to what the people of the country say.
“I hear what the people are saying. My ears are always on the ground, and I will do what the people want me to do.
“We live in a democratic society so you cannot suppress the expressions of alternative views. Ultimately you are the people and you make the decisions. I am merely the servant of your decision,” said Holness as he argued that the Jamaican society is going through a period of “unprecedented change”.
“We are going through a change in our principles; what we stand for as a society, and changes in our morality.
“There are changes in what we see as important and that change in our outlook and perspective has not spared the family,” he said, and added that “for a very long time, by virtue of our history, fathers have not played the role that they should have played and should be playing in our families.”
According to Holness, statistics provided by the Planning Institute of Jamaica, show that more fathers are beginning to play an active part in the lives of their children and this is favourable news.
“I’m happy to see that fathers are beginning to play a greater role in the early lives of their children, and we are seeing more fathers making it a point of duty to take their children to school,” he said.
“It is always pleasing to my heart, whether it is that fathers walk their children to school, tow them on a bicycle, or for those fortunate enough to drive their children to school. More fathers are involved.
“Fathers are at home taking care of children while the wife goes to work. So I am happy to see the dynamics change in a positive way,” the prime minister said.
But, despite the positives which he highlighted, Holness said there are still concerns surrounding the issue of fatherhood in Jamaica.
“We still have a challenge because we notice that as our children grow up the fathers are less equipped to address the challenges of the teenage and adolescent years, and that is where we are seeing the greatest effect of the lack of fathering in the society.
“More than 90 per cent of the crimes committed in Jamaica are committed by males, and more than 90 per cent of those crimes are committed by young men. A significant portion of that, more than 50 per cent, are committed by young men around their teen years, and that speaks to a real problem of fathering,” he said.
He noted that when the statistics are oftentimes quoted it is not mentioned that 90 per cent of the victims of criminal acts are also male, and that Jamaica has a real problem where the men and boys in the country are inflicting violence, to the point of death at times, on each other.
Holness closed by appealing to Jamaican fathers to recommit to playing a greater role in the lives of their boys and to ensure that they do not deviate from the right path.